Hampshire private school forced to close blames falling numbers and rising fees

Alton School has been operating since 1938 Credit: Alton School

An £18,000 per year Catholic day school in Hampshire has blamed the decline in the number of pupils for the decision to close at the end of the current term.

Alton School, which caters for girls and boys from nursery to sixth form, said that due to a “continued decline in pupil numbers … the school has now become unviable”.

There are fears Labour's plans to introduce a 20% VAT levy on private school fees are putting some parents off.

Former pupils include singer Alison Goldfrapp and country-pop twins Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas.

The decision follows the publication of the latest annual census from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) earlier this month which said the number of new pupils joining private schools has fallen by 2.7% in the last year amid rising fees – the biggest fall since data was first collected in 2011.

A message was posted on the school's website

A statement on the Alton School website said the trustees had proposed the school would close at the end of the academic year and its nursery would close on August 31.

The statement said: “This proposal is based on a continued decline in pupil numbers, to the extent that the school has now become unviable. This is due to a combination of adverse political and economic factors.

“Our community has served Alton and the surrounding area since 1938 and it is with deep sadness that we may be unable to continue providing this education in the future.”

The ISC census, based on a survey of 1,411 UK independent schools conducted in January, said the average fee for a day school – which the majority of ISC pupils attend – is now £6,021 per term or £18,064 per annum.

Boarding school fees are the highest at £14,153 a term on average, up 9% on last year, while day fees for boarding school are £7,975, up 8.8% on last year. Among day schools, the majority charge between £3,000 and £6,000 a term.

In a foreword to the report, ISC chairman Barnaby Lenon said Labour’s plan to charge 20% VAT on private fees is “looming large in parents’ minds” and private schools are concerned about pupil recruitment and retention.

He said: “A pupil bulge has made its way through the school system, but independent school numbers have not been rising to the same extent, leading to a decline in the proportion of children educated in independent schools from 7% to 6%.”

Mr Lenon warned that an increase in fees caused by VAT – when combined with high inflation and increased employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme – could provide “a far more acute shock to the system”.